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Family Portraits: Win, Aindra & Edga

Win and Aindra were both medical students from Myanmar who fell in love with each other while studying in Malaysia. In fact, they’ve lived in Malaysia for so many years that it has become home to them, even though they recently made the move back to their home country. With their little one Edga in tow now, they see lots of opportunities as Myanmar has risen up through the years and is a growing country.

I too have fond memories and links to Myanmar. My great-grandfather from my mother’s side moved from Myanmar to Malaysia years ago so part of my family history originates there. I have also traveled to Myanmar in 2008 where I spent 2 weeks around Yangon, Inle Lake, Bagan and the surrounding areas climbing stupas, cycling the streets, talking and eating with locals, chasing sunrises, and visiting churches. In Malaysia, I have photographed 2 Myanmar refugee weddings – for Zwe & Stellar and also Bobo & Catherine.

So recently, while Win and Aindra were back in Malaysia for a short holiday, we did a photo shoot for their family. It was a beautiful day in the park, and we had a great time together. Edga, the little man, was ever so happy to be with his parents chasing after birds, being lifted in the air, or just simply walking around. Here are some of my favourites from our session together.


Myanmar Wedding: Bobo and Catherine

Catherine and Bobo are in their twenties and in love. They are youthful, enjoy life, love the Lord, and dream of a future together. Pretty much with the same dreams as any average young adult Malaysian. The only difference is that they are living in Malaysia as refugees. When Catherine traveled thousands of kilometres by land from her Myanmar home to Malaysia years ago, she had to face many uncertainties, fears and hardships as she made the journey here.

She moved to Malaysia because she wanted to help her parents who are pastors in Myanmar to support their younger siblings through school. Even though she didn’t know anyone in Malaysia then, she left the comforts of her home to a foreign land, alone. Somehow, God connected her to some other Myanmar nationals who were also seeking refuge in Malaysia. And it was there that she found a church to belong to – a church that spoke her language and were filled with her own countryfolk.

Interestingly, Catherine got to know Bobo at church, but only got to know him better at another Myanmar refugee wedding we photographed 2 years ago. When I asked Catherine what attracted her to Bobo… she answered without hesitating… “I love how he loves the Lord.”

Since most of their friends (including them) work at restaurants or boutiques in shopping malls that close after 10pm, it’s natural that the only time they can conduct a wedding is at midnight.

How our paths crossed
One day, I got a FB message from a girl named Sheryl asking if I could recommend a place where Catherine could get a wedding gown for under RM400. This girl Catherine also had in mind to send the gown back to Myanmar to her father’s church after her wedding so that it could help other girls who couldn’t really afford a gown. After a few messages, I told her that I had my old wedding gown which I could give to her if she was keen on having it (since we were both petite at XS size). I met her in church one day, and gave her 2 of my wedding gowns to choose from. It fit her to a T! It was really special to see that my gown went to someone who appreciated it so muchI also want to thank the team of people who came together to make this wedding memorable for Catherine and Bobo. They include:

Make up & hair for bride: Michelle Touche
Make up & hair for bridesmaids: Shinny Ong
Photographers & Videographers: Stories.my (Ben, Diane, Grace, Wee Liem and Johan)
Wedding Cake & Catering: Makanlah Now
Church: DUMC

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A Myanmar Refugee Wedding: Zwe & Stellar

Photographers: Grace & Weiming
Videographers: Alex & Monica
Wedding Gown: DUMC wedding ministry
Groom’s Suit: Alex’s suit
Make up & hair: Grace Wang (bride) & Katy K’ng (bridesmaids)

On the 19th of July, Alex and I received a phone call from Pastor Margaret of our church. It was a call for help. Two Myanmar refugees, Zwe and Stellar were about to start their new lives as husband and wife, and they needed some help with the wedding.

If you did not read the background story as to how Alex and I got involved with this wedding, you’ll need to do that in order to fully comprehend this post.

So at 10.30pm on the 20th of July, Alex and I drove to church for the wedding ceremony. I was elated to see the bride looking so radiant in a white bridal gown, provided by DUMC’s wedding ministry. Amazingly, some months ago, someone had donated a handful of second hand wedding gowns to DUMC. Considering Stellar is a really petite girl (about my size, 5 feet!), it was miraculous that she managed to find a gown that fit her perfectly (ok maybe it is a tad bit long). Now if only my wedding gown was not in a box somewhere, I could have loaned Stellar my gown and the length would have been perfect.

If Zwe had chosen to wear Alex’s wedding suit, that would have been pretty weird, to see someone else in my gown and in Alex’s wedding suit! (not that I would have minded).

But Zwe chose one of Alex’s beige suits instead, and I think he looked smashing in it!

Did you know that in Myanmar, 55 million people speak a variety of 111 languages, but majority of them speak the Myanmar language.(source: myanmar.net). The Myanmar script draws its source from the Brahmi script.

Translated into English, the bible passage featured below talks about love:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. (1 Corinthians 13:4)

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A phone call and a wedding 32 hours later

Grace came home from work, then flopped onto the bed as she would normally do, exhausted from the events of the day. We’d normally have a chat before getting ready for dinner or discuss renovation plans for our new home that’s still being built, some 10 months later. Today was different.

“Darling, I got a phone call today from Pastor Margaret. She asks if I can help shoot a wedding.”

“Sure, why not? Strange that she would call, though. When and who is it for?”

“Tomorrow night. 1.30am. For a Myanmar refugee couple.”

I shut my notebook and looked at Grace with eyes as large as golf balls. I echoed, ONE-THIRTY-AYY-EMM?

To understand this Burma / Myanmar story better, you’ll need to be armed with some basic information.

noun. a person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster.

As of end May 2011, there are some 94,400 refugees and asylum-seekers registered with UNHCR in Malaysia. 86,500 are from Myanmar.

GNI PER CAPITA IN MYANMAR (average of how much a person earns in a year) (UN Data)
US$578.30 (as of 2008 stats) – which is MYR1,740.39 (PER YEAR!)

“What’s the rush? And why 1.30am?” To me, it sounded like a secret ceremony that had to be done in a hurried manner, away from the prying eyes of the world.

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